The 2014 Knight News Challenge | Calling All Ideas

Dave Steer


Recently, Knight Foundation, the Ford Foundation and Mozilla announced the first Knight News Challenge of 2014. Submissions are due on March 18th, and now is your opportunity to be considered for $2.75 million in grants for breakthrough ideas by answering the following question:

How can we strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation?

That’s quite a lofty question, but we hope the answers brought forward through the Challenge will strike at the core of how to advance and protect the open Internet. After all, without trust in the Internet, people won’t feel the confidence needed for free expression and won’t have the environment they need to innovate and continue making the Web.

News Challenge Screen Shot

Really, any innovative project that results in a stronger Internet is worthy of submission.

In this spirit, the Mozilla team wanted to highlight a few, specific problem areas that we see so that our community can start hacking on solutions. To be clear, the Knight Foundation will consider any idea that relates to the Challenge question, so treat the following as a starting point.

1.    Privacy – How can we enable people with better controls over their personal information?

Despite the fact that people want to understand Web site privacy practices, there is an overwhelming sense that privacy policies are insufficient and indecipherable. If we think about the next wave of Internet users, notices that are only posted in English and policies that aren’t readable in a mobile environment will be completely inadequate.

How can we make privacy policies more practical, more transparent and a more helpful part of the user experience online? In an age of sharing the most personal parts of our lives, how can we design better privacy controls? Beyond privacy policies, what other user controls and mechanisms can we devise that will put people at the center of their online experience?

2.    Security – How do we empower people to safeguard their web use and apply pressure on industry to step up their security game?

It feels like a week doesn’t go by without some sort of security breach resulting in the spilling out of people’s personal, financial information. These incidents are by no means small and limited – they cause wide-ranging harm. The Target security breach alone reportedly impacted one out of every three adults in the U.S. The risk is clear: people will start feeling helpless in securing their own accounts and companies won’t feel the pressure to maintain secure platforms if issuing apologies and reactive credit monitoring becomes the norm.

What innovations can be built that arm people with stronger security on the Internet? How can everyday Internet users apply pressure to companies to step up their security efforts?

3.    Web Literacy – How can we educate the next generation of digital citizens as they come online?

Young people today are growing up in a digital world. For kids, there is little difference between offline life and online life – for them, it’s just life – and this presents new opportunities and new challenges.

What tools can we give them to learn the basics of how the Internet works and how to make safe and smart choices throughout the online world? How do we best ensure that they learn robust social, emotional skills to address the new set of interactions that they will have online?

There are obviously many more areas around innovation and free expression to address, and technology alone is not a panacea. That’s why we’re hoping to see a range of responses, from ideas focused on new technologies and tools to concepts that highlight solutions in journalism, policy, research and education. Some applications may call for the development of brand new technologies; others will leverage existing open source tools such as Web Maker, Open Badges, and Lightbeam.

Really, any innovative project that results in a stronger Internet is worthy of submission.

The magic of the Mozilla community comes from its innovative spirit. We are all hackers, builders and makers. So please do submit your ideas on so that we can build a safer, more trustworthy web together.

Dave Steer is the Director of Advocacy for the Mozilla Foundation.


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